Sunday, February 9, 2020

Ready to go hiking?

Debi and I love to walk. As part of our lifestyle we try to walk three to five miles every day. This year we decided instead of simple walking we would add hiking to our lifestyle. We chose to vary our hikes to include at least one a week and more if we're so inclined. There are many hiking trails in and around the Mesa, Arizona area. With that in mind, we pulled up the hiking app on our phones and went searching.  We're excited to add this to our lifestyle.

First up is "Spook Hill". A moderate hike up the side of a mountain of just short of a mile. Part of the trail was strenuous but it levels out half way up the hill and became very enjoyable. The views were well worth the effort. Yes, it's winter, but winter in Arizona means tying a jacket or sweater around your waist.

I intend to post more pictures of some of the hikes as we explore around the Phoenix area. 

From the bottom looking up. The elevation gain is less than 500' but the first 1/4 mile is very steep.

Once you make it past the first 1/4 mile the trail widens and becomes much easier. What's at the top? See below.

For those wondering how Spook Hill got it's name...well no one is positive but the commonly accepted story is it's based on a 'dude ranch' that used to be in the area in the 30s and 40s. The ranch offered horseback rides in the area. However, whenever the rides went up on the hillside, the horses unaccountably became ''spooked'' and so the hill came to be called Spook Hill.

 Distant view of Superstition Mountain with the City of Mesa in the foreground.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Sunsets at Usery Regional Park -- Mesa, Arizona

As promised, here are several pictures I took as we were relaxing at Usery Regional Park in Mesa, Arizona. There's nothing better than sitting outside in 78 degree winter weather with someone you love watching the sun set behind the mountains. Life is good - hope you enjoy the pictures....D

I'll start with this picture of Pass Mountain.It's easy to spot from the Phoenix/Mesa area due to it's distinct white stripe, (orange in the sunset) that runs across it western slope. The stripe is a 'tuff layer' which is solidified volcanic ash and includes it's main attraction, a grotto or wind cave. A two mile hike up the mountain is a favorite of locals and offer fabulous views of the cities below. Technically, Pass Mountain is part of the Goldfield Range which also includes the Superstition Mountains.

So, let's get to the pictures. Here they are in no particular order. If you enjoy them, feel free to share them if you like. 

This one gives you an idea of how close you are to the "City".

Usery Regional Park -- Mesa Arizona

Our first journey in 2020 takes us just a few miles outside of Phoenix to Usery Regional Park. This park is close in, yet the feeling is very remote. What makes it fantastic is if you need supplies, fine dining or any amenities they're only a few minutes away. This is a county park and provides water and electricity, 20/30/50amp but no sewer. There is a dump station on site. Phone service is perfect but no wifi, so bring your own. There are many hiking trails throughout the park raging from easy to difficult. Each site is set apart from the next so you have lots of privacy. They are fairly level sites but since they are gravel, the monsoon rains play havoc with them. The hosts rake and clean each site prior to the next campers' arrival.

Upon arrival, you're greeted by the mighty saguaro cactus. The Harris' hawk was a regular and we spotted him several times on our hikes. The Harris's hawk is notable for its behavior of hunting cooperatively in packs consisting of tolerant groups, while other raptors often hunt alone.

The Saguaro can grow to 40 feet and a lifespan of over 150 years. They normally begin growing their arms from 75-100 years of age. The arms serve three purposes; first, they allow the cactus to absorb more water from rainfall; second, the arms produce flowers and fruit to enhance reproduction; and three, they help balance the plant to keep it upright. Inside the green skin are long wooden 'ribs'. During times of heavy rain, a single saguaro can weigh up to 4800 pounds. The largest on record stood 78 feet tall. Their root system can extend over 98 feet in all directions. Saguaros may take between 20 and 50 years to reach a height of 3 feet. They are protected by State Law which prohibits harming or removing them in any way without a permit from the State.

If you look closely, you can see one of the hiking trails within the park, at the base of the cactus.

This Harris Hawk could have cared less that I was beneath him and taking his picture.  Harris Hawks are typically 2 feet long with a 4 foot wing span. Groups typically include from 2 to 7 birds. Not only do birds cooperate in hunting, they also assist in the nesting process. No other bird of prey is known to hunt in groups as routinely as this species. Their social nature has been attributed to their intelligence, which makes them easy to train and have made them a popular bird for use in falconry. Their diet is mostly small creatures such as rodents, other birds, lizards, mammals and large insects. However, because they often hunt in groups they can take down larger prey up to 4 pounds although this is not common. They are gorgeous birds in flight with dark brown plumage, chestnut shoulders and alternating brown and white striped tail feathers.

While the desert is known as a harsh, hot and challenging environment, we discovered this pond on one of our hikes. The pond is fed by an underground spring and provides needed water for many of the desert species. The water was somewhat stagnant so it appears the spring is pretty small.

Since Arizona is well known for it's beautiful sunsets, I thought I'd close this page with this shot of a Harris Hawk passing by our campsite. If you want to see more exciting sunsets, I'll be posting more on the following page. Good night for now.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

A New Decade

As we enter the next decade, we are excited to see what's ahead for us. As many of you know, Debi and I have been volunteering at the California State Parks. We may take a break from that this year and do some more traveling. We've been back and forth across this great country many times but there are some adventures that await us. Debi lost her dad last year so many things we wanted to see and do were put on the back burner, so to speak. Anyway, I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful beginning to the new decade - the NEW ROARING 20s !  Let's GO!